Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Thank You!

I guess that's it for the blog posts, at least for now.

Most of the local climbing we're doing now isn't really that epic, and once winter hits we will be stuck in the gym. It does feel a little strange to go climbing without having the blog in the back of my mind though. I have this weird feeling that I need to be sharing what we are doing with the world. At the same time it's nice to leave the camera at home, and just enjoy the climbing.

Hopefully we'll hit the road again next summer. Despite the number of climbing destinations we visited, there are still some amazing ones that we missed. The Grand Tetons in Wyoming and The Bugaboos in British Columbia are high on the list. We might start blogging again then.

There are a lot of people we'd like to thank for making the trip so amazing:

All the new friends we met on the way, even if it was just for an afternoon of climbing or the sharing of a campfire. It was awesome to hear all your stories and share your experiences.

All our old friends and family who joined us for various parts of the trip. It was always a joy to climb and hang out with familiar faces from back home, and we were so excited to be a part of your own adventures.

All the people who opened their doors and let us stay on the inside. You have no idea how awesome it was to sleep in your bed, use your shower, enjoy your climate controlled air, and steal your internet.

And all the people who read any of these blog posts. I'm sure most people just looked at the pretty pictures, but I hope we entertained some of you for a while.

Thanks for coming along for the ride.

"Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories."
- Ray Bradbury - Fahrenheit 451

"The law of gravity will be strictly enforced."
- Climbing access sign at Rocktown, Georgia

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Memorable Moments

During the trip we had our fair share of memorable moments. Of course a lot of them came from the various routes and problems we climbed, but I'm sure just as many came from the many entertaining people we met.

One of the funniest moments, at least for us, came when we were at Lake Louise,in Alberta, when some other climbers walked past us. One of them stopped, looked at Kristal and I, and excitedly said, 'I know you guys!" It's actually not that uncommon to run into the same climbers in multiple places, so for the next split second I was desperately trying to remember where we had met this guy before. He finally said, "From the boulder video of Hazlet!"  It turns out this guy had not only seen our video of bouldering in Saskatchewan (probably one of only a few hundred people), but he actually went to climb the Hazlet boulder after watching it. And to top it off he actually recognized us! We were laughing about it the entire rest of the day.

When we met Smiling Wes the first time, it was an unforgettable moment in its own right. He came rolling in to Horse Pens 40, Alabama, at about 11pm, set up beside us, cooked himself some supper and headed into the woods to work on his project by lamplight. Naturally we joined him, and were thoroughly entertained for the next few hours. Then we met him again, 7 months later, in the exact same spot, still working on the same problem, and neither of us had been back to Horse Pens since the first time we met there!

In addition to surprising coincidences, we often got interesting reactions from Americans when they found out we were from Canada. Like the over the top climbing guide we met in Joshua Tree, who proceeded to tell his client all about how awesome the Tragically Hip were. Or the hippie we met in Tuolumne Meadows who said, "Right On!! You must own, like, every Rush album!"

Then there was this guy we met in Lake Tahoe, who related his story of planning a road trip to Alaska. He was thoroughly confused about why the mileage wasn't adding up, until he finally realized there was an ENORMOUS COUNTRY between Alaska and the continental United States. I felt a little sorry for his kids.

Some memorable moments fell into the 'tents are not soundproof' category. One evening in Arkansas we shared a campfire with the couple camping next to us, and were entertained by what we thought was some fun witty banter between them. Later that night, as we were trying to sleep, we had to listen to them arguing about it: "Why do you always make fun of me in front of other people!?".

But of course, nothing quite beats the countless moments like the one below, enjoying the company of new friends at some amazing climbing destination. I hope those moments never end.

Kristal hanging out with Max, Dan, Laura and Chelsea.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Favourite Routes - Part 2

5. New Wave/Assembly Line 5.10a 550 ft, Devils Tower, Wyoming

Kristal Imagine a massive granite monolith towering 700 feet above rolling prairie. The climbing is also pretty amazing, if you can avoid the thunderstorms, biker gangs and slow parties in front of you. On New Wave/Assembly line, two pitches of varied climbing lead you to a perfect pitch of fingers and hands. The summit is also an impressive place, a true island in the sky.

Jason Yeah, talk about slow parties! We had the slowest party ever ahead of us on this one, and as a result came our closest to having an epic. The climbing was awesome, the summit was amazing, and the descent gave us enough adrenaline to last a lifetime.

4. West Crack 5.9 700 ft, Yosemite, California

Jason Tuolumne Meadows offers many classic routes in a spectacular alpine setting, but is somewhat marred by the number of people milling about, both tourists and climbers alike. West Crack was an excellent route just far enough off the beaten path to give us that remote climbing experience that we really enjoy.

Kristal West Crack had a couple of super memorable crack pitches, but I think the most memorable part was the American hippie we met on the summit who couldn't believe that, as Canadians, we didn’t absolutely love Rush.

3. Endgame 5.10a 610 ft, Cochise Stronghold, Arizona

Kristal Once the last holdout of Apache warriors, Cochise Stronghold is an isolated maze of granite domes. Endgame climbs both steep, big plates and thin friction slab 600 feet up the Rockfellow dome, near the heart of the maze. The exposure is great and the summit superb, if a little windy. 

Jason Yeah, even though this route is mostly bolted, it provided some exceptional climbing: sustained vertical crimping, runout slab, and some ridiculously exposed traverse moves. Also, nothing quite beats Cochise Stronghold for that back country climbing experience. We didn't see another soul the entire day.

2. Moby Grape 5.8 1000 ft, Cannon Cliff, New Hampshire

Jason This route scored the highest for actual climbing from both Kristal and I. The climbing is superb, with more crazy features than on any single route we've climbed. The experience was slightly lessened by the fact that the I-93 runs right along the base of the cliff. Nothing quite ruins the serene climbing experience like watching and listening to transport trucks barreling down the interstate.

Kristal Oh, Touthomme, you forget. By the time we were four pitches up the wind was howling so badly we couldn't hear anything at all. There’s nothing quite like friction slab in a 100km/hr wind.

1. The Wasteland 5.8 600 ft, Cochise Stronghold, Arizona

Kristal With a vicious chimney, cranking on steep jugs, and two pitches of delicate traversing across chicken heads, with nothing but air beneath your feet, The Wasteland was an exhilarating experience. It had some of the best climbing of our trip (except for that thirty feet of painful chimneying) in one of the most beautiful settings. Plus there’s nothing better than climbing in 25 degrees C in the middle of January.

Jason Absolutely! Winter climbing at its finest. I also thought the chimney was kind of fun, but of course I didn't lead that pitch. This was another amazing Cochise climb where it felt like we had the entire place to ourselves. The day we climbed The Wasteland had everything we look for in a perfect climbing day: a moderate approach; 6 pitches of interesting and fun climbing; a distinct summit; spectacular views; comfortable climbing conditions; an easy descent; and, most importantly, getting back to the car before dark.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Favourite Routes - Part 1

When you live out of your car, without the distractions of television, the internet, and often even other people, you end up having quite a bit of free time. In addition to gossiping about anybody and everybody, we spend a lot of time discussing the merits of the various routes and problems we climb.

As we neared the end of the trip we decided to rank our favourite multi-pitch routes. These routes sometimes require a significant investment in time and effort, often taking a full day to complete. As such they can be pretty memorable, for good or bad, depending on how things go. When things go well it can be pure joy that you never want to end. When things go bad, it can be complete misery, with no better feeling in the world than finally getting back to the car.

So, without further adieu, here is part one of our top ten favourite multi-pitch routes, ranked on a completely subjective scale based on our experience climbing them.

10. Frogland 5.8 770', Red Rocks, Nevada

Jason This is one of the most popular routes at Red Rocks, and for good reason. The climbing is fun, varied and pretty sustained at the grade. Unfortunately its popularity also means that it suffers the inevitable issue of overcrowding.

Kristal If you can get past the crowds and the terrible rope drag on the traverse pitch, there’s a spectacular view of Las Vegas from the summit. 

9. Cathedral Enchainment 5.9 400', The Needles, South Dakota

Kristal The Enchainment had the single most committing move I’ve ever done. It links the climbs between three granite spires and involved lunging over the void between the first and second spire. The rest of the climb included some delicate, spicy climbing and a narrow miss with a thunderstorm.

Jason You can’t ask for much more than three distinct summits (each with its own summit register!) in 400 feet of climbing.  Pretty unique, and far away from the usual touristy madness that goes with climbing along the Needles highway.

8. Ancient Arts 5.8 A0 250ft, Fisher Towers, Utah

Jason When I stepped up to the top of the fourth pitch, to the start of ‘The Sidewalk’ with the Corkscrew Summit in front of me, I distinctly remember saying to Kristal, ‘Screw that, have fun, I’m staying here!’  I did eventually suck it up and climb to the summit, but wow, the exposure is intense!

Kristal Not only was it super exposed, but we were buzzed by base jumpers as we started to rap down. Definitely a unique experience.

7. Outer Space 5.9 1000', Leavenworth, Washington

Kristal The fifth pitch is truly spectacular, a perfect hand crack which splits a vertical face covered with knobs. Definitely one of the best pitches I’ve ever climbed. As for the other pitches, well, the poor rock quality on the crux pitch and the long traverse pitch keep this climb from being in the top five. However, the setting is beautiful, remote and rugged. And the mountain goats are ridiculous.

Jason Yeah, Gaston the mountain goat was pretty entertaining. As was the couple climbing ahead of us, who we eventually called Ken and Barbie. We climbed the last pitch in the dark and got back to camp at 1:00am, but at least we got two new Metolius cams out of the ordeal.

6. Recombeast 5.9 475', Cathedral Ledge, New Hampshire

Jason The Beast flake and the upper corner/dihedral are huge, unmistakable features visible from the ground. When Kristal first pointed them out to me from the road there was no question in my mind.  We HAD to climb this route.

Kristal Not only was it a really impressive looking line, but the climbing was exceptionally good. Each pitch was sustained and interesting, though occasionally scary. Highlights include the exposed traverse move to get onto the flake and the bit of 5.9 downclimbing that really meant throwing yourself into a chimney and hoping your feet stuck.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The End?

After 1 year and 5 months, our life on the road has finally come to an end. It has been an incredible journey, full of amazing people, places and climbing.

I just wanted to post a quick note to say that although the trip has ended, the blog posts aren't quite finished yet. We have a few wrap up posts planned, which we'll put up over the next week or so.

The climbing hasn't ended either of course. This weekend we're heading back to the Adirondacks, to settle up some unfinished business.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


We heard there was a hurricane coming. It was always our plan to finish up the summer in the Adirondacks, in the north east of New York state, and it seemed like a good time to head there. We figured the Dacks would be far enough west to avoid the brunt of Irene, and hopefully we'd just have to write off a day or so due to the rain.

We drove across Vermont and took the ferry across Lake Champlain.

Our first stop was Poke-O Moonshine Mountain, located in the north east section of the park, and featuring a few nice cliffs and an easy approach. On our first day we made such short work of the popular Gamesmanship, 5.8+, 600 feet, that we hiked over to the slabs and climbed the classic slab Catharsis, 5.5, 490 feet as well. At almost 1100 feet of climbing, it was one of the biggest days we've had in a while.

Here is Kristal coming up the excellent first pitch of Gamesmanship.

And leading the first pitch of Catharsis, one of the best slab climbs we've been on.

Then the storm came. Through the power of social networking I discovered my friend Deborah was in Lake Placid for the weekend, celebrating a family reunion in some enormous lodge. Kristal and I didn't think twice about accepting her gracious offer of crashing their party to escape Irene. It was so awesome to spend the day and night on the inside. Thanks again guys!

The next morning we got our first taste of the carnage. Our swanky digs (on the left) escaped relatively unscathed. The house next door, not so much.

Over the next week we would discover the true scope of the damage. After bouldering for a couple of days, waiting for the cliffs to dry, we headed to Chapel Pond Pass, a popular destination with a tonne of climbing. After driving through the devastated town of Keene, with many houses completely destroyed due to flash floods, we hit the end of the road.

While milling around we ran into a ranger and were informed that the High Peaks, Dix and Giant wilderness areas would be closed for a least a week. Unfortunately most of the climbs we wanted to do were in these areas. Fortunately we were still able to access the classic Quadrophenia, 5.7+, 350 feet. Here is Kristal belaying me from the top of the spectacular 3rd pitch.

And the nice view from the top.

It was time to make some new plans though. We headed south-west, hopefully to some lesser affected areas. Unfortunately this was what was left of the road to Crane Mountain.

Scratch that idea. We headed west to Indian Lake to go bouldering at the small, but excellent Snowy Mountain Boulders. The approach follows a small trail about 20 minutes through the woods and the amount of newly downed trees was incredible. Here I am working the awesome Never Been to Hueco, V7.

And Kristal working the ridiculously fun moves on The Fin, V6.

Before leaving the Adirondacks we made one more stop on our way back up through Lake Placid, to climb the short, but highly rated The El, 5.8, 180 feet. It was an interesting climb for sure, with a nice easy first pitch, a terrifying traverse for the second pitch, and an excellent crack climb for the third pitch. Here is Kristal heading around the corner on pitch 2.

Hopefully we'll be back in the Adirondacks this fall, to enjoy some better weather and tick off some of the classic climbs we couldn't get on this trip.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


'There's a jug right there', I tell myself as I stare longingly at an angling crack above me. I'm standing on a narrow, slopey ledge, 600 feet off ground. Between my nice stance and the taunting holds in the crack are 8 feet of friction slab. The wind is absolutely howling. With every move it feels like I could be blown right off the rock. I just stepped off the tip of the Finger of Fate, and my last piece of gear is 15 feet below me and to the right.

'Balls', is what I'm thinking, 'I need more gear'. The slab is easy enough, 5.6 or something, but with the wind it feels horribly insecure. I gently reverse the move back down to the top of the Finger, the tip of which juts out sideways. I crouch down and try and drop a sling over it. The wind whips it back up in my face.

After leaving Pawtuckaway we decided to head back up the White Mountains, this time to the west side and the impressive, 1000 foot high, Cannon Cliff.

It also happens to be a pretty impressive pile of choss. There's a reason the talus slope at the base is so big. Rock fall is a common occurrence, and over the years entire chunks of routes have fallen to the ground. Even New Hampshire's famous state emblem, the Old Man of the Mountain, used to make his home at the top of the cliff. It was a chunk of blocks that when viewed from the side revealed the profile of a man's face.

Sadly, in 2003, the whole thing came crashing down to the ground. All that's left of him now are the man-made devices that were put in place to try and prevent his inevitable downfall. Lesson learned: Nature always wins.

On day one the cliff was still wet from the previous night's rain, so we drove back to North Conway, on the other side of the White Mountains, to climb the fun Sea of Holes, 5.7, on the quick drying slabs of Whitehorse Ledge. Here is Kristal at the top of the unprotected, yet easy, first pitch.

And me heading up the crux pitch 4, which was pretty chill except for some wet mossy slab near the top.

On day two Cannon looked in good shape, so we headed up the all time classic Whitney Gilman Ridge, 5.7, which climbs up along the edge of the distinct 600 foot high ridge on the left side of the cliff.

This route sees a lot of traffic, some climbers more experienced than others, and we managed to scavenge a nice collection of gear that other climbers had bailed on or abandoned.

We climbed the excellent 5.8 hand crack variation on pitch 3. Here I am standing on the small belay ledge atop pitch 3, looking straight down into the black dyke gully.

There was a nice section of scary exposure on the fourth pitch, with holds all angling the wrong way on rock that looked like it was about to slide off into oblivion. Thankfully Kristal led that pitch.

Day three started out calm and beautiful, and we started up another classic, Moby Grape, 5.8, which climbs up 1000 feet near the center of the cliff. With so many named features, like Reppy's Crack, the Triangle Roof, the Sickle, the Finger of Fate and the Cave, Moby Grape is covered with interesting movement and unique features. It is a spectacular climb, and one of the most varied we've ever gone up. Here is Kristal heading up the amazing Reppy's crack.

Here I am on pitch four about to finangle some gear in a non-existent crack before slabbing up to the Sickle.

Unfortunately what started out as a beautiful day turned into a what felt like a tornado. We've definitely climbed in windy conditions before, I've blogged about it more than once, but this was intense, and the worst we've ever experienced.

I eventually had to completely lie down on the edge of the Finger of Fate to work my sling into place, and with the extra protection I sucked it up and made the slab moves up to the crack. The last three pitches turned into an interesting exercise of 'not getting blown away'. We were so relieved to finally scramble over the top and down into the protection of the trees on the lee side of the mountain.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

When Wasps Attack

During our last day at Cathedral Ledge, we were a few pitches up and came upon a wasp nest smack dab in the middle of a crack we were climbing. It provided for quite a bit of excitement, and more than a little cursing on my part. When it was all said and done I got stung three times on the fingers of my left hand. Somehow Kristal managed to make it by unscathed. I guess they had taken out all their anger on me.  We managed to finish up the climb without any more issues, but by the next day my left hand was trying its best to form into the shape of a pumpkin.

I could barely bend my index and pinky fingers, so climbing was out of the question. The weather decided to cooperate though, and a couple of days of rain forced us off the rock and gave my hand a chance to recover. During the break we went to scope out the nearby Madison boulder, the largest known glacial erratic in New England, and one of the largest in the world.

Even if it was dry, this enormous boulder is pretty featurless, so there's not much in the way of bouldering potential.

Our next stop was Pawtuckaway, a scenic state park at the base of New Hampshire, that also happens to be a decent bouldering destination. On our first day out I managed to get stung by a wasp again! This time on my arm, so at least the swelling didn't affect my ability to climb.

This place is pretty cool, with large boulders nestled in a nice forest setting. Here I am pulling on to the cool balancing boulder.

Kristal about to send Debbie Does, V5.

And taking a break between attempts.

Me pulling on a cool undercling start.

And Kristal climbing some sweet slab.

There are some pretty awesome problems here, but with the frequent showers, baking temperatures, and high humidity we definitely aren't pushing any grades. The heat makes for good swimming conditions though!